By Mark Saldana

Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)

This wonderful Chilean film received nominations for multiple awards, including the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and the Academy Award in the same category.  Though it did not win the Globe, it might have a chance at winning the Oscar.  The movie which deals with prejudice in a time of grief has some incredible moments of drama, conflict, beauty and triumph.  The movie features a phenomenal performance by actress Daniela Vega and is my pick for Best Foreign Language film of the year.Vega stars as Marina Vidal, a transgender woman who pursues a singing career part-time while supporting herself as a waitress in a restaurant.  Though her lover Orlando (Francisco Reyes) is older, the two share a passionate and loving relationship.  After sharing a romantic date together, Orlando becomes unexpectedly ill during the night and ends up dying at the hospital.  Deeply saddened by her loss, Marina faces even more complicated matters when Orlando’s family take over handling the funeral arrangements.  Not happy with Orlando’s choice of lover, the family treats Marina very rudely and disrespectfully, making the grieving process even more trying.

Written and directed by Sebastián Lelio who co-wrote with Gonzalo Maza, A Fantastic Woman is a heartbreaking, disturbing, but ulitmately empowering portrait of the life of a trans-woman and the prejudices she must overcome to pursue her dreams and live a happy life in Chile.  Leilo and Maza develop their protagonist with humanity and allow Daniela Vega to channel her genuine inner strength with a poignant vulnerability and understated brassy disposition.

And Vega absolutely shines in this role and definitely makes Marina an admirable and endearing character.  Her character faces some tough obstacles during an already difficult time and Vega exudes a  natural strength and determination that Marina should have.  In addition to her acting skills, Vega is quite the talented singer.  Her singing scenes also reflect an impressive vocal versatility.  In addition to a solid performance by Francisco Reyes as Orlando, the film features fine work by Luis Gnecco, Aline Kuppenheim, Nicolás Saavedra, Amparo Noguera, Antonia Zegers, Trinidad Gonzalez, and Nestor Cantillana.

The film also can boast some lovely cinematography by Benjamín Echazarreta who captures some truly gorgeous shots which capture the beauty of Chile and its people.  The soundtrack offers a mix of both Spanish and English songs including “Time” by The Alan Parsons Project which makes for a haunting and heartbreaking tune during the film’s closing credits.  The score by Nani Garcia and Matthew Herbert also offers some wonderful sounds which enhance their scenes.

Though I haven’t seen all of the films nominated for Best Foreign Language film awards, this movie absolutely won my heart and offers such a highly relevant subject matter that I must champion it for awards.  On Oscar night, I will be ecstatic should it win the award.  Regardless of whether or not it does, I must highly recommend this outstanding film and encourage everyone to see it.  It not only deserves critical accolades, but financial profit as well.

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